Scary local talent will be on display during UFC Fight Night on Halloween

Chris Gruetzemacher (top), who trains in Surprise, has a challenge this weekend in opponent Alexander “The Great” Hernandez at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. (Photo by Ed Mulholland/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Tempe and Surprise will have scary talent on display during UFC Fight Night on Halloween night.
Chris Gruetzemacher (14-3)and Kevin Natividad (9-1) may train in two different cities but they will be coming together at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas to face some tough competition.

Gruetzemacher is a five-year UFC veteran who trains at 2 Knuckle Sports MMA Academy in Surprise. He started taking Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai classes to get into shape, however, his fast-paced progress turned into the start of an MMA career 12 years ago.

The 34-year-old is coming off a two-and-a-half-year hiatus. The last time he was in the octagon – April 2018 – he stood toe-to-toe with UFC legend Joe Lauzon (28-15) in a bloody battle that he won via TKO and earned a $50,000 “Performance of the Night” bonus.

“I felt like I broke him,” Gruetzemacher said during the post-fight presser.

Gruetzemacher will have to squeeze a bit harder (+280 underdog) if he’s going to break his next opponent, Alexander “The Great” Hernandez (11-3).

Before that bout takes place, Kevin Natividad will make his much-anticipated UFC debut. He trains at Arizona Combat Sports in Tempe. The 27-year-old was scheduled to fight on Sept. 5 but was pulled just hours before the bout due to COVID-19 complications.

“It was pretty depressing,” Natividad said in a pre-fight interview.

He is fighting fellow bantamweight Miles Johns (10-1), who is a Dana White Contender Series product.

The Breakdown

Gruetzemacher looks to finish fights, win or lose. He has a 71 percent finish rate in his wins and he has been submitted in all three of his losses.

Gruetzemacher’s style is that of a wildman. He ferociously goes after his opponents with zero regard for his own safety. He possesses good power in his hands and despite being submitted three times he has respectable ground skills.

His opponent, Hernandez, is an explosive southpaw who likes to use his left hand like a sniper rifle as he picks off his opponents at range.

This lightweight clash should be a classic stand-up battle between an orthodox fighter and a southpaw.

Gruetzemacher is coming off of a huge layoff and before then he had only fought sporadically. Hernandez fought five months ago but that ended in a TKO loss against Drew Dober (23-9).

The oddsmakers are taking the loss over the layoff as Gruetzmacher is currently a +320 underdog, according to William Hill sportsbook.

The UFC did not give Natividad an easy fight in his debut (+130 underdog).

Natividad is a good all-around fighter. He’s competent when standing and has good instincts on the ground. He is riding the high of a five-fight win streak and in his last fight, he finished it by knockout with a perfectly timed right uppercut.

Despite being knocked out by a flying knee in his last fight, Johns is still favored to win.

Johns exhibits a very patient counter-striking style. He bides his time well and breaks up any rhythm his opponent has with a crisp jab. He can be too passive at times. Before he was finished in his last fight he went almost a full minute without going on the offensive, allowing his opponent to get too comfortable.

This scrap should be very competitive. Both fighters have been active this year so there’s no rust to shake off.

These two may carry out their gameplans in different ways but they both possess a lot of the same tools. If this fight remains on the feet, Natividad has a four-inch reach advantage over Johns.

“We’ve been ready for this matchup for a while,” Natividad said in a pre-fight interview in reference to them fighting in the same promotion (Legacy Fighting Alliance) but never fighting each other until now.

Cortney Casey (9-8), who fights out of The MMA Lab in Phoenix, was scheduled to fight on this card but her opponent, Priscila Cachoeira (9-3), withdrew from the card Friday morning due to weight-cutting issues.

The fight card will be shown on ESPN+. Gruetzemacher and Natividad will be fighting on the preliminary card starting at 1 p.m. PT.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Christopher Lopez is an Arizona native who expects to graduate in December 2020 with a master’s degree in sports journalism.